Canada’s Genomics Pioneers Aim to Curb Agri-Food Industry’s Carbon Footprint
The agri-food industry, a significant contributor to Canada’s carbon emissions, could soon see a transformative shift. Scientists from leading Canadian institutions have secured $6,545,700 from the Government of Canada and other partners to fund a project that hopes to significantly reduce the sector’s carbon emissions through genomics.
Canada’s agri-food sector, along with associated food waste, is currently responsible for more annual carbon dioxide emissions than the country’s passenger transportation. As concerns mount over the increasing climate crisis, innovative solutions to address these emissions become paramount.
Led by Professor Joan Laur of the Plant Biology Research Institute (IRBV) and Professor Louise Hénault-Ethier of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), the research initiative plans to delve into the optimization of how microorganisms break down agri-food byproducts and food waste.
Laur stated, “Harnessing genomics and imitating natural ecosystems can be the key to reducing the carbon footprint of the agri-food system. By creating a circular economy, we hope to diminish our environmental impact significantly.”
The project will initially be set in Montreal’s urban landscape. The city, spread across 500 square kilometers, hosts numerous microbreweries, bakeries, and organic matter producers, making it a fitting “living laboratory” for the research.
The team intends to unravel the interactions of microorganisms involved in the biodegradation process by employing genomics tools to study the genetic structures and DNA. Laur further elaborated, “Exploring these biological processes allows us to understand better what these organisms consume, subsequently reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
This multidisciplinary project involves collaborating with several circular economy partners, such as Tricycle, Mycélium Remédium, and Compost Brome, which operate bioreactors inspired by nature. The primary aim is to reclaim organic waste at various stages of the agri-food supply chain.
Luc-Alain Giraldeau, the INRS’s Chief Executive Officer, commented on the project’s significance, emphasizing its innovative approach to address environmental challenges using genomics. “Interdisciplinary contributions,” he noted, “are vital for providing solutions.”
Nearly twenty researchers from four prominent universities will work on this project in partnership with almost thirty community associates.
The grant for this initiative is a part of Genome Canada’s Climate Action Genomics Initiative, launched in May 2022. The national funding amounts to nearly $70 million, supporting nine interdisciplinary teams across Canada in their genomics research endeavors.
Announcing the funding, Greg Fergus and Anita Anand emphasized the importance of such research in today’s climate scenario. Besides the potential environmental benefits, the sustainable efforts from these projects are expected to generate over 36,000 jobs.